Are you a brand-new major-gifts officer? You were probably hired for your strong qualifications as a fundraiser, hefty experience in development, and ability to influence and convince others of the importance of the mission you now represent. And you’re probably a motivated individual who is yearning to demonstrate your expertise to your new team and to show that hiring you was worth the investment.

That’s the most important start—experience, ambition, and drive. But on top of that, here are four ways to use your novelty to your organization’s advantage, before you head into your first meeting with a donor:


  1. While seemingly counterintuitive, now is not the time to play up any expertise you may have in the development world. When you start making calls to donors and prospects, don’t dive right into your rehearsed pitch for your new nonprofit. Instead, mention that you are the organization’s most recent hire. When they ask you what made you take the job, you can candidly share your excitement about all of the great work your organization is doing, making them feel as if they are coming right alongside you in the mission. 

  2. Use your inexperience as an opportunity to cultivate current donors. Here’s one way: ask for a meeting with a donor to help you practice your pitch prior to your first meeting with a prospective donor. Your current donor will appreciate being asked for advice critical to the organization’s fundraising efforts, and she will feel like a part of the team in an advisory role—not just someone who writes checks.

  3. Similarly, share that you are new to your organization when in meetings with potential donors, too, and solicit their feedback on your performance throughout the meeting. This vulnerability accomplishes two things: it dismantles the transactional feeling of the monetary ask you are gearing up for, and it allows your donor to feel engaged on a deeper level with the organization. 

  4. Most importantly: be “new” as long as possible. Even if you have worked in development for years, find an aspect of your employment that accentuates your “newness”—starting at a new organization, a new promotion, or even your young age will afford you the ability to take advantage of the time you are the fresh face of your organization.

For new development personnel, there is a natural tendency to want to prove oneself as a fundraising expert as soon as possible. But the authenticity and vulnerability recommended here will probably make you more successful than “playing the expert” too soon. Demonstrating your willingness to learn exhibits a type of maturity different from that of being a seasoned expert: it conveys humbleness, and everyone, especially donors, likes to be around someone who they can take under their wing and share their wisdom with.

Are you working on improving your skills in major-gifts fundraising? Join American Philanthropic's Jeremy Beer, Justin Streiff, and Cecilia Diem for a Scotch Talk on "Major Gifts and Where to Find Them" on Thursday, August 19th at 4:00pm Eastern time. Kick back for a casual conversation about major-gifts fundraising—and hear some great stories from American Philanthropic leadership about their experiences! Register for free here.